Pearl concedes that a stable lineup helps ensure "great consistency" and that everyone knows their roles. He just chooses to go in another direction, changing his lineup the way some coaches change their socks. Often as not, he'll make a change in response to something a player did off the court, rather than on it.
"A lot of times a lineup changes because of who's on time for the bus or a pre-game meal or a class," Pearl said. "I probably use the starting lineup and rotations in disciplinary ways and sending messages more than most.
"If they're making every class, on the bus on time and in every meeting, the cell phone never goes off, that's wonderful. The one thing I control is playing time. Occasionally we will use that (to reward or punish), maybe more than many people."
Pearl's playing rotation has varied quite a bit lately because of his backup posts, 6-10, 270-pound sophomore Brian Williams and 6-7, 230-pound freshman Emmanuel Negedu. Some games Williams will play 15 minutes and Negedu five. Other games Negedu will play 15 and Williams five.
"The thing with Emmanuel and Brian is, they have both shown they are more or less effective against some opponents and some styles of play," Pearl explained. "They're both in the nine-man rotation, except I have a preconceived notion going in which one will get more minutes, based on who we're playing and how these other teams are built."
Some coaches shorten their bench at tourney time but Pearl expects to continue rotating nine players, even in the upcoming SEC and NCAA Tournaments. Key players such as Tyler Smith, J.P. Prince and Wayne Chism may play longer stints, however. That's because the slower pace the Vols are playing this year requires fewer rest breaks than the frantic tempo UT played in 2006, 2007 and 2008.
"We're still pressing – we went fullcourt for both Georgia and Vanderbilt – but we weren't speeding up like crazy," Pearl said. "Tyler can play 35 minutes in that style. J.P. can play more minutes. Wayne, if he could stay out of foul trouble, could play more minutes. You're able to shorten the bench a little bit if you're not making it helter-skelter."